The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Priest devoted to his mother dies on Mother’s Day

Published: May 10, 2021   

Father Robert Dienert, a diocesan priest for 58 years known for his devotion to his late mother, died on Mother’s Day, May 9. He was 90.

Father Dienert was born in Pittsburgh Aug. 30, 1930. While growing up in Detroit, he felt called to serve God and spent some time with the Trappist monks at Gethsemane, Ky., influenced by Thomas Merton. 

In an Arkansas Catholic article in 2012, Father Dienert said his assistant pastor recommended he attend St. John Mission Seminary in Little Rock. "Where is Little Rock?" he wondered. In September 1956, the 26-year-old boarded a plane in Detroit bundled up in a black wool suit and heavy overcoat. When he landed in Little Rock, it was 95 degrees.

On May 31, 1962, Bishop Albert Fletcher ordained seven priests, including Father Dienert, to the priesthood for the Diocese of Little Rock.

After ordination, he served as an associate pastor at St. Joseph, Pine Bluff; St. Edward, Texarkana; Our Lady of Good Counsel, Little Rock; and Immaculate Conception and St. Anne, North Little Rock. St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Fayetteville is where he first served as a pastor. He also served as pastor of St. Louis, Camden; St Mary, Saint Vincent; St. Jude, Clinton; St. Francis, Fairfield Bay; St. Edward, Texarkana; St. Elizabeth, Eureka Springs; St. James, Searcy; and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Marche. In 2010, Father Dienert retired, taking the title of senior priest, and lived at St. John Manor in Little Rock. He died at Hospice Home Care. 

In addition to parish ministry, Father Dienert taught religion at Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock and was a hospital chaplain at St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro. He was the dean of the North Central Deanery and was named to several diocesan boards and councils.

"God gave me the grace to stick it out for the last 50 years. I'm grateful for that," he told Arkansas Catholic in 2012.

He was preceded in death by his mother, Nellie Butler, who moved to Arkansas in 1976 and lived with her son until she died in 2008. He was also preceded in death by his stepfather, Clyde Butler, and one brother, Sonny, who died in infancy. He is survived by several cousins. 

A rosary and vigil service will be at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 12 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in North Little Rock (Marche). The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 13, also at Immaculate Heart of Mary, with burial to follow in the parish cemetery.

Memorial donations can be made to the Msgr. James O’Connell Seminarian Fund, Diocese of Little Rock, PO Box 7565, Little Rock, AR 72217-7565.

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